An independent autopsy into the death of an unarmed black man filmed with a police officer’s knee pressed into his neck for nearly nine minutes contradicts a state judgement that has pointed to pre-existing health conditions in his death.
The Minneapolis officer accused of suffocating 46-year-old George Floyd, Derek Chauvin, has since been charged with third-degree murder over the death, yet an initial finding cited in a criminal complaint pointed to pre-existing conditions with “no physical findings” to support “strangulation”, outraging his family.
One week after his death, the latest autopsy commissioned by his family revealed Floyd’s death was the result of being unable to breathe.
"The evidence is consistent with mechanical asphyxia as the cause of death, and homicide as the manner of death," Dr Aleccia Wilson, a University of Michigan expert who examined his body at the family's request, told a news conference.
Dr Michael Baden and Dr Wilson found his death was caused by sustained compression to the neck and back that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain.
Also in contradiction to the criminal complaint, they say Floyd died at the scene, as opposed to in hospital.
“What we found is consistent with what people saw. There is no other health issue that could cause or contribute to the death,” Dr Baden said.
“Police have this false impression that if you can talk, you can breathe. That’s not true.”
County medical examiner declares death homicide
Shortly after the independent report, Hennepin County's medical examiner released its official autopsy that called his death a homicide caused by "neck compression," although it also said he was intoxicated and pointed to heart disease.
“Decedent experienced a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer(s),” the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office said in a news release.
Under “other significant conditions” it said Floyd suffered from heart disease and hypertension, and listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use. Those factors were not listed under cause of death.
However, the family’s autopsy found no evidence of heart disease and concluded he had been healthy.
Floyd, who was in handcuffs at the time, died after Chauvin, who is white, ignored bystander shouts to get off him and Floyd’s cries that he couldn’t breathe.
His death has sparked days of protests in Minneapolis and around the US.
On Monday (local time), President Donald Trump threatened to bring in the US army to combat “domestic terror” on US streets.
Floyd, 46, had been accused of trying to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit bill and his aggressive arrest was caught on a cellphone camera.
The autopsy revived demands for the arrest of three other police officers who stood guard for Chauvin as Floyd pleaded for his life.
A memorial for Floyd will take place on Thursday in Minneapolis before a service in North Carolina and a funeral on June 9 in Houston, where he grew up, family lawyer Ben Crump said.
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